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NEWS MEDIA: The village journalists

National | Why the Hillary race is crowding out all others

Issue: "1st-grade murder," March 11, 2000

The prospect of a sitting First Lady running for the United States Senate to represent a state she's never lived in before is clearly a fresh and tantalizing idea to reporters in search of a new story, and a story that may mark a new milestone for women in politics. Mrs. Clinton's seemingly endless unannounced flirtation with a Senate bid went on for nearly a year, and her story fascinated the press. The Center for Media and Public Affairs noted she drew more stories than front-running presidential candidates. That's an unprecedented feat in an era when all House and Senate campaigns combined receive a small fraction of the national press attention presidential candidates get every four years. Even on specialized political shows like CNN's Inside Politics, other House and Senate races are dismissed in a few sentences to make room for more Hillary coverage. Well before her announcement, Mrs. Clinton's coy candidacy accomplished several political goals. It gave an impeachment-exhausted media a new Clinton angle to get excited about, and helped bury any troublesome media thoughts about dwelling on Juanita Broaddrick accusing Bill Clinton of sexual assault in 1978. Never mind that it was Mrs. Clinton who saluted Anita Hill at the American Bar Association, and Mrs. Clinton who cheered on the sisterhood in the war against Sen. Bob Packwood. Can she be a feminist darling and say "no comment" to a rape charge against her husband? No reporter has dared to ask. But that's not the end to amazing amnesia of the press. They find no sleaze factor in her record. It was Mrs. Clinton who had most Rose Law Firm documents shredded, while a few others ended up in the homes of the late Vincent Foster and Webster Hubbell. It was Mrs. Clinton who was the force behind firing the Travel Office staff with a bunch of phony charges of fraud-charges so dishonest it took the jury a whopping two hours to acquit Travel Office chief Billy Dale. It was Mrs. Clinton who gave one fanciful explanation after another (but never the truth) about how she came to make $100,000 in the commodities market. It was reportedly Mrs. Clinton who hired Craig Livingstone, the bar bouncer-turned-librarian of Republican FBI files. Any conservative candidate with her baggage of corruption charges would be laughed off the political stage. But so far, Mrs. Clinton has no conservative challenger. She's planning to face New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who like Mrs. Clinton supports the gay left lobby and defends all abortions, even the especially unpopular partial-birth procedures. But Mrs. Clinton sought to outflank Mr. Giuliani to the left by declaring recently that she "cannot imagine I would vote to confirm" any judge "who was already on record as opposing Roe vs. Wade or a woman's right to choose." Despite her tilt toward the libertine left, Mrs. Clinton did take exception to a Giuliani fundraising letter that accused her of harboring "hostility toward America's religious traditions." Specifically, Mrs. Clinton supported the Brooklyn Museum of Art's publicly funded "Sensation" exhibit, which included a painting of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant dung and pornographic cutouts. The Clinton campaign drew their outrage from a Village Voice article quoting large parts of Mr. Giuliani's fundraising letter, which omitted Mr. Giuliani's own libertine-left stands in search of conservative dollars. While many media outlets noted the furor, most ignored the news that Mike Long, the head of New York's Conservative Party, which refused to endorse Mr. Giuliani, asked direct-mail expert Richard Viguerie to drop Mr. Giuliani as a client. They also ignored Mrs. Clinton's fundraising letters, which are being sent out to groups including the Democratic Socialists of America, the Nicaragua Cultural Alliance, and U.S. Friends of Nicaragua. But omission is the name of the game for the major national media. Nearly all of Mrs. Clinton's 1999 political missteps-the release of Puerto Rican terrorist group members, kissing Yasser Arafat's wife after she claimed Israelis use poison gas on Palestinian children, buying her New York house with funds put up by ethically challenged fundraiser Terry McAuliffe-have been ignored or downplayed before they hurt her already questionable polling numbers. It may take a village of reporters to elect Hillary Clinton.

-Tim Graham is director of media analysis for the Media Research Center in Alexandria, Va.

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